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Nil dry

Submitted by on July 5, 2013 – 12:15 pmNo Comment

Bellends

Funny, isn’t it, how SV Babeslberg 03 are known as nul drei, and we spent the entire week on mainland Europe completely soaking? You like to think that being from Manchester you know a thing or two about rain.

The gloriously soggy Lancashire climate that drove industry, and hauled England out of the dark ages leading to that whole British Empire whoopsadaisy. Rain. So much to answer for.

But this wasn’t the rain we were used to. This wasn’t the sort of rain that propped up Peter Kay’s inexplicable career for a decade. It wasn’t spitting, or that fine rain that soaks you right through. This was bestial, fist-sized drops smashing down from the heavens. A ferocious blanket of water spreading from Amsterdam all the way down to Dresden.

Precipitation that knocked you over, drenched your body, then filled your case with enough water to circumvent three domestic hosepipe bans. You think I’m exaggerating? Well, yeah, of course. But not by much

It was wet enough that the Dynamo Dresden game was called off though. And for the Elbe to rise from its usual levels of 2-3m to 9-10m. But did this perpetual cascade of soggy misery dampen the spirits of us and the other few hundred FC United fans who made it to Germany? Did it heckerslike.

When the two friendlies were announced (well, technically a few weeks before due to us being proper ITK and KTS) the plan had been to fly out for a few days, taking in both matches before a quick escape home again. Rubbish. Much better was the final decision to get the overnight ferry from Hull to Zebrugge and EuroRail our way through Belgium, Holland and Germany, breathing in the delights of Bruges, Amsterdam, Celle, Babelsberg, Berlin and Dresden.

The danger with this sort of Euro away report is that if you spend too much time on detail you run the risk of making yourself sound like a right bunch of giddy bellends. This is especially true when the week was spent acting like a right bunch of giddy bellends. No one likes looking at other people’s holiday snaps, and the same goes for this sort of self-indulgent pap.

So let’s take it as read that the time was spent enjoying local culture, sampling local delicacies, and not sticking stickers on the shell of a snail and serenading it with “United, not for snails! United, United, not for snails!” on an otherwise empty cobbled Bruges street at 3am.

It was day three before we reached Germany. After an overnight stay in a Harry Potter themed hotel in Celle, we arrived in Babelsberg on the day of the game.

At the final whistle after FC United’s 3-2 victory (leading some wags to point out that we’ve a better record on the continent last season than city do), the Nul Drei ultras took to the pitch and celebrated in front of the FC United fans. It was a moment of unity and Solidarity, an expression of genuine warmth and mutual appreciation. A circle wank with flares, songs, and adidas footwear.

Mates

After a while a handful of us made our way in to the stand with an Eric Cantona themed anti-racism flag and started singing “United! United! Antifascista!”. We’d taken our prompt from the artwork and politics of the Babelsberg ultras, and belted out a song we’d been singing in Bruges, on our way to Germany.

Soon more joined, and the singing got louder and more impassioned. Others watched and tried to get us singing United songs, but the point we were making was important. At least we felt it was after a day on the beer.

Increasing numbers of fans seem to believe FC United should be free of politics. Leave politics at the turnstiles is a popular phrase on the usually appalling Facebook site. One fan, who is of course Against Modern Politics, was advertising Moston’s diversity week on his facebook wall, alongside pictures saying right wing, hate mongering crap like ‘You like our benefits but not our flag’. What an excellent way to put the dick in dichotomy.

Even on the day of the game, during a tour of a left wing, working class, textile district given by a local student and Babelsberg fan, one of ours was loudly and rudely saying he didn’t need to know any of it before retiring to a pub that was, had he been listening, at one time the local Nazi party’s headquarters. I love, symbolism, me.

So here’s the thing, and I’m assuming I’m preaching to the choir here, given that this is an article for A Fine Lung: Leaving your politics at the turnstiles is an acceptance that the status quo in football is fine with you. It’s an admission that you are complicit in the sexist, racist and chauvinistic atmosphere we find in our stadiums. How often do you hear shouts of poof, queer, or tart during a match? Hopefully a lot less than at other clubs, but it still happens.

And if we don’t resist that, then how can we honestly claim we are a club open to all. (And stop using ‘open to all’ as a way of justifying your appalling politics, you disingenuous pricks).

Bally

SV Babelsberg 03 are a great example of a club in tune with their local community. They are a reflection of the area they come from and of the people who live there. We should take them as an example of how fans can interact with community in a positive way. And while I believe Ultras are, by and large, giddy divs with flags and flares, there’s no doubt that the work they do tending the graves of local International Brigade members, and ensuring long-forgotten memorials to the victims of Nazi oppression remain current and relevant, are both important and impressive.

The next morning we set of for Dresden, a three hour journey by rail. As we approached the city word reached us that the game had been called off. A quick look at the swollen river Elbe, and the state of the sky suggested that this was far from an overreaction. It was the sort of cataclysmic weather that made me regret bringing three pairs of suede shoes with me.

With the match cancelled we chose to go to the indoor hockey world cup instead. No one really knows what happened, the game being ridiculously fast, and the puck being ridiculously small.

One Red claimed it to have been the best day of the trip, but as he was found face down on a bar table by 10pm, we’ll take that with a whole sack full of salt. According to one member of the British team, a large number of whom were Manchester lads, former FC United midfielder Tunji Moses was due to take part in the tournament before getting himself suspended. That doesn’t sound like our Tunji at all…

The last night of the trip was spent in a St Pauli fan bar in the Neustadt area of Dresden. I’ll level with you, I don’t remember much of it. Or any of it. When I woke the next morning the bathroom in the hostel was covered in blood and donner meat. Whatever happened sounded a fitting end to the week.

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